Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Journalistic Sins

Last evening on NBC News, Brian Williams introduced a report mentioning " Gaddafi is back on his heels." Correspondent Richard Engel began his report, "Gaddafi may be on his back heels, but the outcome is uncertain..." or words to that effect.

Now, my heels are always in the back, and I have never gotten onto my front heels, as far as I know.

The point - using cliches is risky journalism, and mangling cliches isn't journalism at all. James Kilpatrick made the number one "Thing[s] we ought not to do": "We ought not to use cliches" on his marvelous book The Writer's Art.

Journalism demands a level of proficiency in English, from grammar to idiom. We can forgive Engel, - it's a tough row to hoe in Libya right now, but he hit a sour note and should be aware that cliches are a primrose path to damnation. Stay the course of good English and avoid like the plague hackneyed and redundant cliches phrasing, especially if the shoe doesn't fit.